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The In Between Review

February 11, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
The In Between Image Credit: Tina Rowden/Paramount+
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The In Between Review  

Directed by: Arie Posin
Written by: Marc Klein

Joey King – Tessa
Kyle Allen – Skylar
Kim Dickens – Vickie
John Ortiz – Mel
Celeste O’Connor – Shannon
April Parker Jones – Jasmine
Donna Biscoe – Doris

Running Time: 130 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief strong language, and some thematic material.

Young adult dramas may not be in their boom period anymore, but they’ve remained a reliable staple of cinema over the last several years. Sure, we don’t have the wave of dystopian teen blockbusters like Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner that we did in the 2010s, but there’s always a market for these kinds of movies – particularly romantic dramas – as shown by the likes of Five Feet Apart, The Sun is Also a Star, the After trilogy, Everything, Everything – the list goes on. If there are teenagers, there will be a demand for movies about teen love. It’s just that simple.

These kinds of movies may not bring in Twilight levels of box office anymore, but there’s a place for them and that place seems increasingly appropriate to streaming, where there midbudget nature has a better chance at finding success. That’s what makes The In Between seem well-suited to its Paramount+ release. Arie Posin’s supernatural teen romance may not reinvent the wheel, but it centers itself on likeable characters and sweet sensibility that should satisfy those looking for a tale of young love.

Instead of building to an inevitable tragedy, The In Between starts the heartbreak right out of the gate. The opening scene reveals that Tessa (Joey King) and her boyfriend Skylar (Kyle Allen) have been the victims of a vehicular accident. While Tessa survives (albeit with heart damage), Skylar does not.

From there, the movie takes us both forward and backward in time. It charts how the sharp but cynical Tessa and the more emotionally optimistic Skylar’s relationship developed over the preceding six months. At the same time, it pushes ahead to see how Tessa, seeking answers, comes to believe Skylar is trying to contact her from beyond the grave – “The In Between,” as one character puts it – and needs to reach out in the hopes that they can get the farewells that they were denied.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because many of these plot devices are staples of young adult films. Chloe Moretz’s If I Stay featured a character who hovered between the lands of the living and death. And King herself (a producer as well as the star) has described the film as “the YA, modern-day version” of Ghost, which is a pretty accurate description.

All that’s to say that this is well-trodden territory for film. And yet, much like Ghost, The In Between largely works because it centers on a charming pair of leads. King is best known to audiences for Netflix’s The Kissing Booth films, so she’s no stranger to teen romances. She puts that experience to good work here, elevating a role that could have easily been a collection of YA tropes – the brilliant but emotionally-distant girl who must find love to learn about life. King makes this character, who shoots photography and watches old movies (but doesn’t like happy endings), feel authentic and real.

It helps that she’s well-matched in Allen, who gives a light touch of gravitas to the more upbeat character. Allen and King have real chemistry between them, and they make scenes like their meet-cute at a movie theater (in which Skylar translates a cut of French classic Betty Blue that doesn’t have subtitles) fun instead of eye-rollingly precious. That helps to sell the post-crash scenes, when King is working without Allen and has to make us buy the idea that this girl who didn’t believe in a love story for herself has changed enough to believe in both love and ghosts.

To say Klein’s script lays it on a bit thick is an understatement; when Tessa tells Skylar that movies where relationship ends are “what makes a love story so memorable,” it comes across like using a bullhorn to the attention of someone the next room over. You can chart the course of Tessa and Sky’s relationship through some very predictable beats, and Tessa’s post-accident quest is no less obvious. But that’s also the genre. We’re talking about teen romances, and there’s never been anything subtle about them either on screen or in life.

And if it’s easy to guess where the movie goes, it at least knows to make the ride go down easy. Posin’s pacing is on point here as he smoothly dips forward and backward in time, and the supporting cast is full of strong performances including Kim Dickens as Tessa’s stepmother and Celeste O’Connor as her best friend, who helps her try to contact Skylar in a delightful little sequence playing off supernatural tropes.

There are certainly other things that you could quibble with here (there’s an eyebrow-raising subplot involving an afterlife expert that goes full Magical Negro trope), and if you’re not into the genre than The In Between won’t change your mind. But for those who are into it, the performances and the emotional beats captured by Posin make this an engaging and appropriately heart-tugging addition into the teen romance catalogue.

The In Between is now available to stream on Paramount+.

The final score: review Average
The 411
It may walk familiar roads and it won't find many converts among those who aren't into teen romance, but The In Between is a charming and likable young adult supernatural drama. Elevated by the performances of Joey King and Kyle Allen, it captures the essence of teen angst and has just enough going on to make it an enjoyable, if not unforgettable, viewing experience.

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The In Between, Jeremy Thomas